Alas all ye who are tired of the endless number of YA titles that are trilogies. I present to you one that actually tells its tale between the covers of one book. I was beginning to think that is was an impossible thing to do these days.
So many have raved over this one. Stiefvater, who made the Shiver trilogy one of the most popular YA series in recent times, has come back with something a bit more sweeping, a bit more epic and a lot less angst-ridden than you will find in most YA dramas. That description alone should capture your attention, yes?
Synopsis: Beneath the tall rugged cliffs, along the beach, on the fictional (Irish?) island of Thisby, there is a long-standing tradition that occurs every November...the Scorpio Races. In these races, each competitor is challenged to tame and ride the vicious, feral water horses called capaill uisce...similar in feature to a regular horse, but with a thirst for blood and an ability to live beneath the sea. Participating in this race often proves fatal to those who ride the capaill uisce, but stand to win riches that can change their life on an island where nothing comes easy.
Sean Kendrick is a hard-working, stoic young stable hand who is the returning champion with the massive and powerful capaill uisce Corr, to whom he has an indescribable bond. Sean knows that until he owns Corr outright, and is not a lowly rider-for-hire, he will never be able to get out from under the oppression. Puck Connolly is an orphan, along with her two brothers, after her parents were killed by cappaill uisce. On her regular horse Dove, she decides to enter the race in order to save her family home. She is the first girl to ever do so, so she must not only battle the carnivorous water horses, but overcome odds and prejudice.
Inevitably, these two heroic young warriors cross paths and find an almost spiritual connection in their passion and their mission. The trouble is, only one person can win, and they both have everything to lose.
My thoughts: Because of the setting...the cliffs, the dirty, scrappy village, the island, the mystical water horses that are based on a Celtic legend, the state of constant danger...the atmosphere in this novel is almost something you can touch and taste. All the senses are engaged.
What is also present in this novel is the author's appreciation for the equine nature and spirit. Horses have a unique way of communicating with humans. They make noises when they are excited, interested, or scared. They become anxious when a person is unsure or nervous around them, they calm when there is confidence. There is so much power in the muscled body of a horse, and when that power aligns with a rider who understands them, they act as one. It was apparent that Stiefvater totally gets that. It was magical to read.
I also loved that the relationship between Sean and Puck wasn't dumbed down to a primal teenage rush of hormones, weeping and drama. Theirs was a more mature connection, formed at a higher level than trying to get each other's clothes off. It was truly refreshing.
Points of the story did seem to drag for me at times, but the reasons for loving this story that I've talked about above, plus maybe one of the best endings I've ever read EVER, more than outweighed it.
A few words about the audio production: Because the story is narrated in alternating voices of Puck and Sean, it was a brilliant move to have both a male and female narrator for the audio. In this case, it was Fiona Hardingham and Steve West. Both had gorgeous Irish lilts, were youthful, and reflected the characters' spirit. It was everything you would want in a listening experience.
4.5 out of 5 stars